The color of snow

Photography is a technical sport. This post is about the technique I use to get true color in a photograph.

Snow offers the best conditions for photography, as the color cast opportunity for green grass is blanketed and the bounce light is perfect studio white. Yay! Even so, out of the camera on auto white balance, snow can be too magenta, too dull, and this process will correct the light and color.

I have used this (rather chilly) snowy time to practice a new routine for custom white balance and color correction. This routine requires a few hardware and software tools, reinforcing to me that photography is a technical sport.

I will explain how to get true color and light, in case it is of interest to you.

The tools I used were: ExpoDisc White Balance Filter, Color Checker card, Lightroom CC software, Color Checker Camera Calibration (and a Canon camera with custom white balance capability).

The process of white balance and color correction starts out in the field when taking the photo…

  1. Take a photo of your scene on auto white balance using your desired aperture and shutter speed. Keep the aperture and shutter speed constant throughout the routine.
  2. Grab your handy ExpoDisc White Balance Filter and on manual focus take a photo. It should be a grey photo.
  3. Take the ExpoDisc off the camera and switch back to auto focus.
  4. On your camera, choose custom white balance, and use that grey photo as the reference.
  5. Now, take a photo of your Color Checker in the scene.
  6. Take your beautiful photo of the scene.

You now have three photos you will need for white balance and color correction, the grey photo, the photo of your color checker and your actual beautiful photo.

Back at your desk…

  1. Upload your photos into Lightroom CC
  2. For white balance, use the dropper next to the white balance tab and select the middle of your grey photo. See the Temp and Tint sliders adjust.
  3. Copy/Paste those Temp/Tint numbers to the photo of the Color Checker.
  4. Export the Color Checker photo as a DNG file and put it in a folder that is easy to find.
  5. Open (or if your first time, download then open) Color Checker Camera Calibration software and drag/drop the photo of the Color Checker.
  6. Create a Profile and save this in the same folder as the DNG file that is easy to find.
  7. Now go back to Lightroom CC, import the profile you just created and saved in that easy to find folder. Double click the profile to select it.
  8. On the photo of your Color Checker, change the profile to the profile you just created in Color Checker Camera Calibration.
  9. I then play around with the White Balance dropper on the bottom two grey squares of Color Checker and see if that changes the Temp/Tint again to something that looks even more true.
  10. Cut/Paste this Profile, Light, Color, to your actual beautiful photo.

And that’s it for white balance and color. You can now adjust contrast, shadows, and everything else, as the underlying light and color are “true”.

Its quite the process and requires a bit of gear and software, but the results are satisfying.

Published by Jocelyn E. Finlay

Jocelyn E. Finlay is a Researcher, Writer and Photographer.

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